Next appointment: Museo Opera dei Pupi, where puparo (manipulator or puppeteer) Gianfranco Salonica told us all about pupi, marionettes, and their two major schools, Catania and Palermo, differently jointed and sized. The dramas (and colors) are the same as those depicted on Sicilian carts, of knights, love, honor, chivalry and battle, with Saracens against Sicilians, Orlando the superhero. Shows were performed in a piazza, attended by uneducated men, not for kids. The Catania-style pupi--knights in armor with swords, turbaned Saracens, dragons, devils, maidens in distress, were wonderful. We promised to come back for a show. Gianfranco showed us another Sortino specialty, honey, sold, along with pupi videos, in a shop that's part of an inexpensive B&B.
We went back to the bar for a pizzoli tasting--sausage and broccoli, mushrooms, tomato, prosciutto and mushroom, bresaola and cream cheese. And a beer. No dessert, since I was already thinking about our dinner plans.
I had been in Palazzuolo Acreide many years ago and was fascinated by Akrai, the first colony founded by Syracusans, the amphitheater, and ruins and Santoni rock reliefs of the goddess Cybele. I returned, intrigued by the name of a restaurant, Andrea, Sapori Montani. I made a reservation and asked if there was any place interesting nearby where we could stay. The B&B Il Palmento di Pietra was perfect--rustic, well-appointed, inexpensive, and in the center of town. There were tented stands along the main drag and piazza--we'd stumbled on a fair, Agrimontana, featuring flavors of Iblei. There were stands with cheese, salumi, honey, cookies, cannoli, wood-burning ovens, a group of students and their teacher from the local hotel-restaurant school, and a couple of historic cars--Lancia Appia 1953 and Lancia Ardea 1952--on display.
We strolled through the fair before dinner and met the mayor, who told us about Palazzuolo Acreide's interesting museums and that the Santoni were closed. We admired "Cannolandia", with three different colors, two different sizes, and flavored ricotta fillings, but weren't even tempted. We were on our way to Andrea. The restaurant was packed; we waited in the courtyard, as Andrea's wife, Lucia, apologized for the delay. The menu featured, as promised, mountain flavors. Porcini and ovoli mushrooms, Nebrodi pork, sausage, local cheese, ricotta ravioli with pistachio, rustic pasta, carob-flavored custard. The wine list was inexpensive, with an ample selection of interesting Sicilian wines. Everyone in the restaurant was drinking beer or soda, eating pizza--a local Saturday night tradition, Lucia explained. Our meal was wonderful.
In the morning we had breakfast at Pasticceria Caprice, included in the price of our B&B. I had to take a picture of the cannolata, a cake assembled of many, many, many cannoli. We went to the Museo dei Viaggiatori in Sicilia, a monothematic jewel, beautifully laid out, of great interest to anyone traveling the island. Maps and prints document sites visited on voyages in the 17th century, with photographs of the sites today. The museum made me realize that I was on a Grand Tour and needed to write about it. Thank you, Palazzo Acreide.
Next stops on the Grand Tour: a disastrous mushroom fair, visit to the Maestro, lunch at an old favorite, on to Modica...